LIRR worker dies after touching third rail

Police investigate how a Long Island Rail Road track worker died when he fell onto the third rail near the Queens Village station. Photo by Ellis Kaplan
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A Long Island Rail Road worker was killed Monday when he came into contact with the third rail near the Queens Village train station, a spokesman for the MTA said.

Ronald Sampson, 51, was performing track maintenance work alongside seven other employees around 11 a.m. Monday when he touched the third rail, electrocuting him to death, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

A third rail foreman then came rushing to Sampson’s aid, the MTA said, and fellow employees performed CPR on the man until emergency responders arrived at the scene. A coworker was taken to nearby Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park and was listed as stable after being held overnight, the MTA said.

According to an MTA spokesman, rail employees may sometimes come in contact with the third rail while working. What could make the voltage deadly, the MTA said, includes pairing the third rail’s charge with that of the steel running rail about 1 foot away, which may have occurred in Sampson’s case.

Sampson, a resident of Lake Ronkonkoma, L.I., started his career with the LIRR in June 2006 as an electric traction helper before he was promoted to third rail man in 2008. The husband and father of four’s death came as a shock to those in his family, including his son Ryan Sampson, who took to Facebook when he heard the news.

“Probably the worst day of my life. The greatest and strongest and toughest man I ever knew,” posted Ryan Sampson, a junior at Ohio’s Ashland University. “I love you Dad and miss you every second.”

Both the LIRR and the MTA police launched a full investigation into the cause of the incident, the MTA spokesman said.

“The entire LIRR is deeply shaken by this tragic loss,” said Helena Williams, the LIRR president. “Ron was a dedicated employee and family man. It’s a very sad day at the railroad today.”

Last summer, another LIRR worker was killed when he came into contact with the third rail, the MTA said. According to an MTA spokesman, car inspector Russell DeCeck died Aug. 14, 2011, after touching the third rail while working in the Babylon Yard.

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to Sampson’s family, friends and co-workers,” the MTA spokesman said.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 12:37 am, August 30, 2012
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Reader feedback

WOLF from NORFOLK VA says:
Rest easy in heaven Ron , Your Family n friends will 4 eva miss U.
Aug. 30, 2012, 5:14 pm

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